The Unity Slate backed by Mayor Ras Baraka, North Ward Councilman Anibal Ramos Jr. and pro-charter school organization scored a major victory in the Newark Public Schools Advisory board election, sweeping the three top spots.

Josephine Garcia, Reginald Bledsoe and Flohisha Johnson were the highest vote-getters in a race that featured 15 candidates vying for three seats on the advisory board.

With 107 of 108 districts reporting, Garcia garnered 3,566 votes, Bledsoe 3,382 and Johnson 2,717.

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Coming in fourth place with 1,558 votes was Charles Love and fifth place with 1,486 votes was former Acting Newark Schools Superintendent Deborah Terrell. Both candidates were backed by Central Ward Councilwoman Gayle Chaneyfield Jenkins. 

Patricia Bradford, whose name replaced Johnson's on alternative Unity Team signs throughout the city, came in sixth place with 1,447 votes. 

Campaign manager Jason Solowsky said Baraka put together a great team that has “rallied around better education for the children of Newark.”

In addition to Baraka and Ramos, the Unity Slate was backed by Sen. M. Teresa Ruiz, Assemblywoman Eliana Pintor Marin, the rest of the Newark City Council and the pro-charter organization PC2E. The slate had two charter school parents on the ticket -- Garcia, whose children attend the Robert Treat Academy as well as public school, and Johnson, whose children attend North Star Academy.

Love was also a North Star Academy parent as was as was the husband and wife team of EZDehar Abu Hatab and Jameel Ibrahim. Abu Hatab almost doubled her husband's vote tally.

The only incumbent running in the race, Philip Seelinger, placed seventh with 1,177 votes. He ran on the only other slate, the Community Team, with Denise Cole who garnered 1,047 votes and Ryan Talmadge who earned 474 votes.

The election was a clear victory for Ramos, whose candidate, Garcia, tallied the highest votes. Ramos engineered the Unity Slate last year and in the 2016 election, picked up one board member, Tave Padilla, whose children also attended Robert Treat Academy.

Charter school parents -- Padilla, Garcia and Johnson -- now comprise three of the nine-member board that has historically been tepid -- and at times hostile -- toward charter schools.

Despite being named the Unity Slate, the ticket was anything but unified. In the South, Central and West wards, an alternative Unity Team emerged consisting of Bledsoe, Garcia and Bradford. The alternative Unity Team's campaign signs were on display throughout the wards. Johnson's vote tally suffered from the political subterfuge as she garnered some 850 votes less than Garcia.

Solowsky chalked up the alternative Unity Team signs to “disgruntled community members pushing their agenda.”

Though some may try to frame the school board election as a proxy for next year's mayoral election, in which Chaneyfield Jenkins is expected to challenge Baraka, the low voter turnout in the school board election makes such an inference imperfect, at best.


Swapan Basu 730
Philip Seelinger 1,177
Jimmie White 592
Sharon Smith 451
Josephine Garcia 3,566
Reginald Bledsoe 3,382
Denise Cole 1,047
Charles Love 1,558
Patricia Bradford 1,447
Deborah Terrell 1,486
Sheila Montague 759
EZDehar Abu Hatab 311
Jameel Ibrahim 181
Ryan Talmadge 474
Flohisha Johnson 2,717